Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | 6:09 p.m.
Nevada Democrats are labeling U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., a hypocrite for blaming oil speculators for fueling gas price spikes after he voted against Democratic-sponsored legislation to curb such speculation.
Prompted by a question at a campaign stop in Las Vegas on Friday, Heller decried the ability of Wall Street investors to profit from trading oil futures without paying for the transactions.
“If anybody here in this room wanted to trade a million barrels of oil, it would cost you,” he said. “Now, why should we be allowed to make that transaction on Wall Street and not cost a penny? And I believe that manipulation of the market is what’s causing the spikes — moving up and down — of oil prices here in this country.”
But Democrats say Heller has no room to complain about oil speculators after voting in 2008 against legislation designed to curb it.
“This is just the latest example of Sen. Dean Heller trying to paper over his true, anti-middle class beliefs in the hopes that Nevada voters will forget his long pro-Wall Street record when they go into the polling booth,” said Democratic spokesman Zac Petkanas. “The idea that he’s suddenly concerned with middle-class Nevada families now that it’s an election year doesn’t pass the laugh test.”
In 2008, Heller twice voted against legislation sponsored by Democrats that would have required more stringent federal regulations on such energy market speculation.
The legislation, which was also opposed by the White House, imposed regulations on other commodities trading as well, which could have harmed Nevada’s mining industry, Heller’s spokeswoman said.
“Dean Heller has a long history of independence on the issue of gas prices and price-gouging,” his spokesman Chandler Smith said. “In fact, he was one of only 50 Republicans to vote for an anti-price gouging bill while in the minority in 2008.”
Heller, whose campaigns have been heavily funded by Wall Street investors, often positions himself as a politician willing to stand up to Wall Street, citing his vote against the 2009 bank bailout as an example.
Heller has raised $103,000 from the securities and investment industry so far this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Wall Street hasn't ignored his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley. So far this cycle, she has raised $112,500 from the industry. Wall Street is ranked in the top 10 industries for both Berkley and Heller.